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« The Human Mind | Main | Blockbuster Movie »

May 09, 2005


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Tom Craver

The bi-plane was enabled by the internal combustion engine, which was enabled by the Bessemer steel process developed in 1856, though not until 1875 was the process made suitable for mass production. So 10-30 years passed until the gasoline engine was developed (Daimler,1885), getting enough power in a small enough engine to enable powered fight about 20 years after that (Wrights, Kittyhawk, 1903). From Kittyhawk to passenger airlines was about another 25 years, though of course military applications came sooner.

While we don't know the sequence of critical developments for MNT, it seems likely that the AFM (1986, though the first scanning microscope came in 1971) may be considered first in the sequence, if only for demonstrating the precision manipulation of atoms. From that, historically one would expect the next step to take 10-30 years, arriving sometime between 1996 and 2016.

There's a fair amount of work being done on instrumenting AFM tips, so developing the ability to precisely position and bond one atom at a time seems a possible next historic step, enabling slowly building up precision nano-structures. At a guess, that could come within the next 5 years. Call it 2010 - about 25 years from the AFM - historically right on schedule.

From there to the "MNT Kittyhawk" - the first nano-scale assembler able to produce good copies of its own major components - might take another 10-30 years, if we take history as a guide - call it 2030, assuming there's no other key step in between. Maybe a Nanhattan project could pull that in as early as 2015, and possibly some limiting factors would push out widespread availability of nanofactories another 10-30 years.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Individual silicon atoms were pick-and-placed by STM under automated control (with monitoring/feedback) in 1994 by the Aono group. They could apparently only make 2D structures, but they did make those.

More recently, Oyabu has used AFM (pure mechanical manipulation) to pick up and replace silicon atoms. And of course a lot of other molecules and structures have been built.

Although Freitas favors direct SPM mechanosynthetic fabrication, there are other approaches as well. We've just recently proposed another, using molecular building blocks positioned by SPM: http://wise-nano.org/w/Doing_MM

If MM continues to be done by hobbyists in defiance of scientific authority, then 2030 is a reasonable estimate for a Kittyhawk. If MM is accepted and a Nanhattan Project is launched... lessee... fission was demonstrated in 1938, chain reaction in 1942, and the first explosion in 1945. And it was only 10 years from Sputnik to moon landing.

MM is now in the process of being accepted.



Molecular nanotech is coming...in 100 years!

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